Friday, September 22, 2017

‘We will not be adversarial,’ insists new ANP speaker

Taking office as Speaker in what might well be the most complex and politically charged of Myanmar’s 14 states and regions, U San Kyaw Hla is anticipating an “exciting” time as the new MPs take their seats. The Ponnagyun township MP for the Arakan National Party, which holds 23 of the state’s 47 seats, is one of only two state and regional hluttaw speakers in the country who is not a member of the National League for Democracy. Here he discusses his role with The Myanmar Times senior reporter Nyan Lynn Aung.

Rakhine State parliament Speaker U San Kyaw Hla. Photo: Aung Myin Ye Zaw/The Myanmar TimesRakhine State parliament Speaker U San Kyaw Hla. Photo: Aung Myin Ye Zaw/The Myanmar Times

How do you see relations between the ANP and the NLD in the Rakhine State Hluttaw?

There will be negotiations. We have to work together and understand each other. From my point of view, there won’t be any rivalry between us. I hope we can find common ground through discussion.

How do you see checks and balances operating between the government and the hluttaw?

The Rakhine State Hluttaw is unusual, in that everywhere else the National League for Democracy has a majority, and the state and regional governments and their hluttaws can be expected to work together in harmony. Our hluttaw will be more exciting, since the chief minister [to be designated by the incoming Union president] and the Speaker will be from different parties. The hluttaw will not take an adversarial attitude toward the government, but you cannot rule out party loyalties. If the government does a good job, our hluttaw will support it. If not, we shall have to point out the weaknesses. Parliament will do its job.

When will parliament resume?

I plan to resume by March 10 to allow time for preparations following the election of the president and vice presidents.

What is the first order of business?

We have to form committees.

Have negotiations with the NLD begun?

Not yet. I think they should open negotiations.

Which committee will you form first?

We will start with seven committees, including one on legal affairs. It will be headed by the deputy speaker.

You served as chair of the Rakhine State Fisheries Association. What plans do you have for the development of the agricultural and fisheries sector?

That will be a very important committee. Too many of our people are leaving the state. One solution would be to encourage them to settle in the vacant lands that are plentiful in Rakhine State at the moment. They should be owned and managed by local residents, if they know how to make good use of them. Settlements of that kind could slow the exodus. I think each family should own at least 10 acres of vacant land, with support from the state government. If local residents are attached to the land, they will not leave. This will be a priority for us.

What are your plans for dealing with the Arakan Army? Is it true you’re related to their commander?

We insist on a peaceful approach, within the law, and with the goal of national reconciliation. That is the only way toward development. We envisage negotiations, sooner or later. As to my supposed relationship with the commander, I have nothing to say. My responsibility is to the hluttaw. Anything else is a distraction.

Do you anticipate any opposition from the military MPs?

We have a very good rapport with the army. When my nomination was proposed and I became Speaker, nobody opposed me or objected. Based on that I believe I have the confidence of the house.

My intention now is to devote the rest of my life to the service of our race and our nation, by impartially leading the hluttaw. We will work within the law and adjust as necessary to do what we have to do.

Translation by Thiri Min Htun and San Lay